We all look forward to vacations and other extended breaks from our hectic work schedules, and fortunately, the case is building for the importance of these hiatuses. Research suggests that because normal work demands drain our limited physical and mental resources, employees need sufficient time to recharge their batteries if they are to operate at full capacity on the job.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
New research (Kuhnel & Sonnentag, 2011) shows that vacation time can positively impact employees’ psychological well-being when they return to the job. In their study, after returning from vacation, teachers tended to report high levels of work engagement and low levels of burnout. The benefits of vacation time, however, dropped off after about one month back on the job.
But why exactly do the benefits of vacations wear off over time? The authors found that job demands (e.g., student behavior problems, time pressure) slowly counteract the positive benefits of vacation time. However, the authors found that experiencing leisure time following vacation helps preserve the positive effects of vacation on employee well-being.
Employees and organizations may stress the importance of taking an occasional vacation from work in lieu of financial or other rewards for not taking time off. It’s easy to see how the opportunity to recoup one’s physical and mental resources can be important for employee well-being, but from an organization’s perspective, this can ultimately impact employee job performance, as increased work engagement can lead to increased productivity and citizenship behavior (going the extra mile). Still, this research provides support for taking vacation time and recharging our batteries.
Kuhnel, J. & Sonnentag, S. (2011). How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32(1), 125-143.
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